1.2 Wood energy development in the Philippines
Unhampered exploitation of wood resources (for fuel and for other uses of wood) leads to resource depletion and land degradation. The potential conflict between resource utilization and conservation may however be resolved if there is a broad and open deliberation of policy and strategy options for wood resource management and energy utilization. In such a way, judicious policies can then be formulated leading to proper strategies whereby wood fuels can be developed as an alternative "modern" energy source, i.e. technically efficient, economically viable and sustainable, to fuel the country's economic development.
Wood energy problems do not manifest as a simple and direct shortage of fuel. Wood energy supply or, more generally, biomass energy supply, is defined not only by the amount of resources available, but also by the degree of access to these resources. Access to these resources can be constrained by location, land tenure, and land management practices.
Wood energy problems do not affect whole communities uniformly, and it is usually the poor who are hit first and hardest. As fuelwood problems emerge, people respond according to the opportunities open to them. These responses are varied, indirect and locality-specific. Some of these responses are desirable and sustainable and form the basis for effective interventions. Others produce negative impacts, such as steps taken as necessary responses to immediate problems; these frequently result in the longer-term undermining of the local production system.
The problems and potential solutions to wood energy problems are specific to people and places. Wood energy-related policies (and wood energy strategies) must capture and build on the ways in which the users of wood (and other biomass) fuels respond to the problems they face and the opportunities they perceive.
It is important to determine the perceptions and priorities of the people on the ground; a process which is in itself desirable and which can form the starting point of their wider participation in the creation of solutions to the wood energy problems they reveal. The adoption of such an approach is not in itself a complete answer to the problems surrounding the establishment of effective fuelwood projects on the ground but it will produce an orientation which is the first step in building such solutions.
The past decades saw the emergence of more effective approaches to wood energy development in many developing countries which took account of this perspective. Multipurpose management of forests and tree resources with active involvement of rural people is showing to be a socially desirable, economically rewarding and environmentally sustainable strategy for production of fuels, timber and other forest products. As such, producing wood to satisfy market demand can help generate income in rural areas producing wood fuels as well as for people trading them. Efficient and judicious strategies in using wood fuels, an indigenous and renewable energy resource, can provide not only advantages to its users and to the communities where the wood fuels are produced, but can also generate macro-benefits for the country.
The constraints on fully exploiting the potential of wood fuels as an indigenous, renewable and environmentally-safe energy source are not due to the lack of, or the limitations of, available strategies and policies for wood energy development. Experience shows that difficulties of ensuring that its production and use are technically efficient, economical and environmentally sustainable stem from the ineffective implementation of well-intentioned policies and strategies.
A major reason for this ineffectiveness is the lack of, or inadequate, in-country capabilities resulting from various organizational and institutional weaknesses (e.g., lack of technical know-how, inadequate manpower, etc.). Development programs have since been implemented to address these problems. However, much remains to be done to develop the capabilities to implement strategies at the grassroots level, where the participation of affected people on the ground is a key factor in their success.
Mismatching of policies and strategies vis-a-vis wood energy problems will definitely result in the failure of such policies and strategies adopted. The cause of such mismatching can be due to insufficient knowledge of policies and strategies and the situations where they are most appropriate for pursuing wood energy development. This in turn can be due to weaknesses in the capabilities to assess the present and forecast the potential wood energy situation, which in turn can be due to inadequate wood energy information.
The key issue to fully develop wood energy in a beneficial way is to define appropriate policies and strategies on how to economically manage and efficiently utilize wood energy resources on a sustainable basis. In order to define such appropriate policies and strategies, there is a need for a better understanding of wood energy systems or wood energy flows - the production, processing, marketing, conversion and utilization of wood energy.
This will require developing capabilities within countries not only to implement wood resource management strategies (e.g., community forestry, tree plantations, agroforestry, etc.) and efficient wood energy conversion strategies (e.g., improved cookstove dissemination and other conservation/efficient technology programs), but also to conduct wood energy planning and wood energy policy/strategy analysis and formulation.
Wood energy planning involves a string of activities: (1) organization and management of wood energy information; (2) assessment of wood energy situations (i.e., assessment of wood fuels supply vis-a-vis the wood and biomass resource situation, and analysis of wood fuels consumption within the context of overall energy supply and use.); and (3) energy projection and modeling studies that incorporate wood fuels and other biomass energy sources. This string of activities is a process that integrates wood energy into national planning exercises and is an essential and systematic tool in the analysis, formulation and definition of wood energy policies and strategies.
Thus, a prerequisite to make wood energy a "modern" - efficient, economic and sustainable - energy source is for a country to have adequate capabilities in energy planning, policy formulation and strategy implementation for wood energy development.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, with funding support from the Dutch Government, is currently implementing a new Regional Wood Energy Development Programme (RWEDP) for Asia. The long-term objective of the new RWEDP is "to contribute to a sustainable production of wood fuels, their processing and marketing, and their rational use by households, industries and other productive enterprises".
The new RWEDP aims to provide assistance to 15 Asian countries for five years, starting from July 1994, in the following areas:
· developing and strengthening capabilities to build and maintain a wood energy data base,
· improving and strengthening capabilities to analyse and formulate of wood energy policies and wood energy plans, and
· improving capabilities to implement wood energy strategies and programs.
RWEDP will assist countries by organizing and supporting training activities at the regional, national and sub-national levels; and also through case studies, demonstration projects and extension activities.
The Philippines, like most developing economies, continues to face a growing need for energy to fuel its economic and social development. A look at the country's energy picture will show that industrial and transport use accounts for the majority of the increase in energy consumption, particularly commercial energy (i.e. fossil fuels and electricity) use. However, a more careful analysis will show that energy use in the residential sector is also significant if biomass energy resources, particularly wood fuels, are taken into account.
For the majority of the rural households and many of the poor urban households, wood fuels (i.e. fuelwood and charcoal) remain the most accessible and affordable fuel option for cooking. In addition, wood fuels continue to be used in many types of enterprises for heating applications such as large-scale cooking, drying of agricultural products, and generating hot water and steam for industrial use.
The overall consumption of wood fuels together with alternative biomass resources has been increasing even if per capita consumption of wood fuels has declined due to a shift to commercial fuels. This is accounted for by the fact that the larger share of an expanded population continues to use wood energy. Thus, despite increasing use of commercial fuels (due to their increasing availability and due to rising household incomes), recent studies indicate that total wood energy consumption will continue to increase too. Wood fuels will continue to be a major component of the energy supply mix of the country in the foreseeable future.
As such, the Department of Energy (DOE), in cooperation with relevant institutions, particularly the Forest Management Bureau (FMB), has started to pay more serious attention to wood energy production and use in the country. From recent studies conducted in the country, a more realistic picture of wood energy is emerging that has called the attention of these two agencies to the significant role that wood energy plays in the energy, forestry, agriculture, and rural economy sectors and in national economic development in general; and to the need for adopting more responsive and appropriate policies and strategies for the use of wood energy. In the process, DOE, FMB and other agencies/institutions with mandates related to wood energy production and use, have realized that they need to develop their capabilities to address wood energy development.
The interactions of these bodies with FAO, particularly RWEDP, its member countries and other international development agencies (e.g., World Bank ESMAP Group, REDP - now PACE-E, AEMMTRC, etc.), have helped them identify the need to strengthen their capacities to plan and implement wood energy development strategies which are well-integrated with energy, forestry and other relevant sectoral programs. These agencies need to fully understand wood energy systems (e.g., the production, conversion, distribution, marketing, and use of wood fuels), the implications of (multi-sectoral) policy decisions impinging on them and the impacts of strategies defined for them. These bodies need to enhance their capabilities to implement strategies at the grassroots level to encourage people's participation in the planning and effective implementation of interventions.